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South Africa scores poorly in global youth development index

Namibia, Botswana and Mauritius all did better.
South Africa will unfortunately have to add the as yet unquantified costs of the recent wave of looting and attempted insurrection to its dismal result. Image: Shutterstock

South Africa ranked 131 out of 181 countries in the global youth development index (YDI) 2020, which tracks the progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) associated with youth development. The youth population refers to persons between 15 and 29 years old.

The data used to compile the index was gathered before the Covid-19 pandemic. However the index sets a useful baseline for future studies.

The YDI 2020 was produced by the Commonwealth Secretariat. The Commonwealth is an association of 54 independent countries, and the secretariat collaborates with member governments to deliver on priorities agreed by Commonwealth heads of government, with the objective of promoting international consensus building.

Sustainable Development Goals 2030

The SDGs represent the global agenda for development by the year 2030, with the motto, ‘leave no one behind’.

The goals can be briefly summarised under five pillars:

  • People: The SDGs are goals for everyone, regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexuality or ability.
  • Planet: We have one planet with finite resources. Climate change to be tackled and reversed.
  • Peace: Development requires peaceful and just communities, and governing institutions that are transparent, responsive and accountable.
  • Prosperity requires sustainable economic growth.
  • Partnerships: Everyone must work together. The 1.8 billion youth across the globe must be included.

Basis of measurement of the YDI

On the assumption that the youth require a “politically stable, economically viable, and legally supportive environment” to fully leverage their skills, the YDI is measured over six areas that would indicate such an environment.

  1. Health and wellbeing. This includes measurements for the mortality rate, HIV rate, self-harm, mental health, and drug/alcohol abuse, as well as tobacco consumption. “Self-harm is the third leading cause of death for all adolescents, and the second leading cause of death for young women (UNICEF, 2019).”
  2. This includes measurements for the literacy rate, school completion, and digital experience (which includes access to the internet).
  3. Employment and opportunity. This includes measurements for youths not in education, employment or training (‘Neetts’), and measurements for indicators that would hamper advancement, such as the number of adolescent births per 1 000 women between the ages of 15 and 19. It also includes a measurement for ‘account’, indicating persons who have an account (by themselves or together with someone else) at a bank or other financial institution or used mobile money in the past 12 months.
  4. Political and civic participation. This measures four indicators: voiced opinion to an official, youth policy, volunteered time, and recognition for community improvement.
  5. Equality and inclusion. This also measures gender parity in safety and security, literacy, and early marriage.
  6. Peace and security. This is a new domain which was added for the 2020 index, but still based on pre-pandemic data. It measures the degree to which young people can live in safety and pursue their goals without the risk of violence.

In all there were 27 indicators, which had to be sourced in all 181 countries.

Where data was not available, this was statistically imputed.

However, for South Africa, the real data was 100%, with 0% imputed.

How countries scored

Singapore was top of the list, followed by Slovenia, Norway, Malta and Sweden. Niger, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Central African Republic and Chad, were at the bottom.

Sub-Saharan African countries had the lowest level of youth development.

South Africa, at 131, came after Mauritius (54), Botswana (108), Namibia (119).

Small consolation: South Africa did better than Kenya (139), Swaziland (152), Zambia (154), Zimbabwe (159), Lesotho (163), Malawi (171) and Mozambique (173).

The top 10 countries had a much better score than the bottom 10 in areas such as school completion, mortality rate, literacy rate, interpersonal violence, the internal peace score, the EU INFORM risk score (risk assessment for humanitarian crises and disasters), HIV rate, conflict and terrorism, economic marginalisation, early marriage, the adolescent fertility rate, and ‘account’.

Interestingly, the top 10 and bottom 10 countries had fairly similar scores for self- harm, gender parity in safety and security, and alcohol consumption.

Even more interesting, the lower 10 countries had a better score for mental health, tobacco consumption, and drug abuse.

This report is interesting, but …

The impact of the pandemic has not been measured, and it is anticipated that this would have caused disparities in education, with children at less affluent schools being left behind. The mental and physical health challenges facing young people are also expected to be disproportionate.

According to the World Health Organisation, Covid-19 disrupted and halted critical mental health services in 93% of countries worldwide.

Obtaining “digital experience” is limited to families that have the means to afford the equipment and pay for the data. During the continuing on/off and partial lockdown, being digitally connected is paramount to getting educated.

Unfortunately, South Africa will also have to add the as yet unquantified costs of the recent wave of looting and attempted insurrection, the damage to schools, and the negative impact on the youth.


If anything, this report is merely another red flag highlighting our marginalised youth.




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Again the terminology is wrong. Covid19 did nothing to disrupt education, any more than the annual flu does.

The REACTION to Covid19, the disproportionate, idiotic reaction to the virus, which doesn’t really affect children, was the own goal that caused the problem. The idiotic lock-downs not only killed children’s future, it also prevented the virus from taking its natural course and us reaching herd immunity.

Very sad. Our next generation is a lost generation as well. Nobody with the capacity to build our country.

Work ethic is not a concept worthy of application in a free for all in the anc and eff’s communist nirvana!

All of these stats and ranks are only proof what we already feel and know, despite the amount of resources that are being thrown at problems they are not being used efficiently and effectively.

Take for instance the Government Youth Agency were tasked with calculating the cost of creating a single job, Basically starting a business and giving all the ins and outs, after some time these bright young privileged commis came back and said it cost around R5mil. BUSA did the same exercise and came up with a figure of between R620,000 and R675,000. The IMF did the same in the US and the figure came to R450,000.

But the answer to all of this is far simpler, a UBI of R7,400 a month for any student who attains a Matric Certificate. Whilst this is a sort of Utopia idea, as it is now there is no real incentive for attaining a Matric unless you are privileged and have a fair chance of having your tertiary education paid for.

If you keep the kids under-educated they become reliant on the government, thus keeping the government jobs going.They have done a good job at this. Helping the poor by making more poor

I believe the word for that is “socialism”

Wake me up when SA scores anything above well below average on any of these international performance rankings.

We actually score top 10 for GBV, HIV, Violence and crime !!
We also have one of the largest and most incompetent cabinets !!!
Absolutely world class !!!

The most active sectors of the SA economy seem to be statistics, legal disputes and commissions of enquiry while the least active are ways of actually putting people into productive long-term employment.

Really?… Who would have thought?

Unfortunately the ANC has seen to it that the current youth cohort will remain uneducated and, therefore, unemployable in the real world (by “real world” I mean outside of the civil service which seems to be the career path of choice for the terminally dense, inept and/or corrupt).

Very interesting, thank you. Seems like a hopeless situation. School curriculum should be re-designed, to churn out students with some hope of a career – no reason why high school kids can’t learn subjects like nursing, agriculture, kitchen design and cabinet making… and of course, update regularly the computer science curriculum. Even our Unis are way behind.

The South African education system is like the BEE construction company that throws cow dung, sand, and sewage into a mixer, hoping to make concrete. Your outcome is only a function of the quality of the raw materials used in the process. This is why our per-GDP expenditure on education is the highest in the world, while the results are the worst. We are trying to build a 10-story building with cow dung. Acknowledge the facts, accommodate the reality, and settle for a shack or a hut with a pit latrine for luxury.

This is to be expected when the majority of children are raised in a home by a single mother with an absent father and where making babies is used as a tool to hook the next man, where school standards are lowered to keep the incapable majority happy and not rebel because they are shown up to be dom.where people are given jobs because of the colour of their skin etc etc etc

End of comments.





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